“I love him”.
That’s the simple and succinct answer of former Raiders director of player personnel and current Toronto Maple Leafs western scout Dale Derkatch when asked about Parker Kelly.
The 17-year-old winger was originally selected by Derkatch during the seventh round (141st overall) in the 2014 WHL bantam draft. A player chosen that late rarely cracks a Western Hockey League lineup, let alone plays top-six minutes and is one of the team’s assistant captains in their sophomore seasons.
Kelly attributes his rapid rise through the Raider roster to learning how to get the most out his skillset.
“I’m a straight line guy,” the Camrose native said, who admitted speed is the foundation of his game. “I found that I’ve got to get in behind the d-men and that’s a big part of my success right now.”
As a 16-year-old rookie in 2015-16, Kelly scored eight goals and 11 assists. Wednesday night against Medicine Hat, Kelly scored his 14th goal of this season and added an assist to run that total to 18.
Head coach Marc Habscheid said Kelly has been improving steadily with the realization he has the speed and grit to get into the scoring areas.
“He is hard to play against especially when he uses his outside speed,” Habscheid said, adding Kelly is becoming a nightmare for opposing defenseman. “He is hard to stop when he uses his outside speed and scares defensemen who he see him racing toward the net.”
Kelly has been called pesky and pugnacious, attributes Habscheid said he has earned.
“He’s a small guy who plays big, he never shies away, often initiates contact and can cross the line at times.”
Kelly is grateful for the chance to play on one of the top two lines in addition to a spot on the first power play unit, and is honored to wear an assistant captain’s “A” on his jersey. However, Kelly admits it was intimidating at first.
“At the start I was just kind of nervous about it,” Kelly said, who now embraces the role. “It’s the first time I’ve been in a leadership role with a team. I think I’m doing a better job with it now,” Kelly said who added captain Tim Vanstone has been a great role model. “I’ve learned what you need to do to hold guys (teammates) accountable, hopefully I can stay in it for the next couple years and lead this team into the future.”
Kelly hasn’t thought a great deal about being selected in this summer’s NHL draft but hopes contributing to team success over the final eight games will put him on the radar of NHL scouts.
“I’m trying to prove myself every game now, there’s not much time left, I’ve just got to leave something on the table. Hopefully someone sees it, it only takes one (scout) to like you.”
On Twitter: RaidersVoice
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